News and Events

Press Release: Governor Polis Signs HB24-1095 Into Law

Expanding Accountability for Violations of Colorado’s Child Labor Law

Denver, CO — Last week, Governor Polis signed House Bill 24-1095 into law. Child workers in our community alerted Towards Justice of the suffering caused by violations of Colorado’s child labor law, and the organization responded by collaborating with legislative and community partners to improve enforcement in our state. This new law will expand accountability for violations of Colorado’s child labor law without altering substantive requirements regarding which jobs and hours children can work.

Colorado legislators passed this law to fortify child labor enforcement at a time when violations of child labor law are increasing nationwide, and violations in Colorado are increasing in both number and severity per the Colorado Fiscal Institute. The New York Times has reported on the horrific consequences of our nationwide failure to enforce child labor laws: a teenager losing his arm in a meat packing plant; another kid forever disabled after falling off a roof. But these horrors aren’t just anecdotal: Federal Department of Labor (DOL) data indicates nearly a 300% increase in minors employed in violation of child labor laws since 2015. And that increase is happening here in Colorado – where the DOL has found multiple kids illegally employed at the JBS meat-processing facility in Greeley.

“Those who suffer the most from weak child labor enforcement are youth working to support themselves and their families, including a disproportionate number of immigrant children,” explained Towards Justice Policy Director Nina DiSalvo. “This law will empower those children to come forward to defend their rights and penalize and shame those who exploit them.”

The law will encourage reporting by creating anti-retaliation protections for children who come forward; removing the risk of criminal liability for a parent or guardian if a child reports a violation; and ensuring that a person aggrieved by a child labor violation has access to statutory damages sufficient to compensate them for their suffering.

Meanwhile, the law will deter and prevent violations before they happen. The law substantially increases penalties for child labor violations, moving them from $0 or $20 for most violations to between $750 and $75,000 depending on the violation. This range reflects the variation in types of child labor violations, ranging from keeping a high schooler at work late to placing a minor worker in a hazardous job that leads to serious injury or death. The law also gives the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) new tools to enforce determinations once the agency finds a violation and requires the agency to publish determinations while protecting the confidentiality of minor workers.

“Colorado’s child labor law was written to ensure that when young people work, it doesn’t jeopardize their health or educational opportunities,” said Representative Sheila Lieder, Colorado House District 28 and prime sponsor of HB24-1095. “By ensuring better enforcement of our child labor law, House Bill 1095 will help our state achieve those goals.”

“Child labor in hazardous workplaces is far too common in Colorado, and our members have seen minors doing jobs they shouldn’t be, ranging from using meat slicers at supermarket deli counters to cleaning dangerous equipment at meat packing plants,” said Kim Cordova, President at UFCW Local 7. “I hope this bill will force employers to take seriously the law’s concern that kids simply are not mature enough to safely engage in these jobs.”

“These important legislative changes passed both chambers of the Colorado legislature with bipartisan support, a notable contrast to the type of politicized activity we see on child labor issues in other states,” said Representative Judy Amabile, Colorado House District 49 and sponsor of HB24-1095. “In this context, Colorado’s new law offers a model of thoughtful legislation that will protect kids, deter abuses, and encourage reporting of violations.”

HB24-1095 was sponsored by Representatives Lieder and Amabile in the Colorado House and Senator Sullivan in the Senate. Proponents included Towards Justice, Colorado Fiscal Institute, Stand for Children, SiX Innovation Exchange, UFCW Local 7, Colorado AFL-CIO, ACLU Colorado, Coloradans for the Common Good, Colorado Education Association, AFT Colorado, and other workplace justice advocates from around the state.

Contact: Nina DiSalvo︱︱(720) 235-2786


News Press Releases